Recently, the Regional Rabbinical Court in the southern coastal city of Ashdod accepted the request of a man whose last name is Cohen to recognize that despite his family name he is not considered a descendant of the line of Jewish priests, Lawguide.co.il reported Thursday. In light of this conclusion, the court allowed him to legally marry his partner, who is a convert.
Jewish law forbids a Cohen to marry a divorced woman or a convert. This halachic prohibition applies in Israel to everyone, including unobservant Jews. The only possible way for a marriage between a Cohen and a convert to be recognized in Israel is for the couple to marry in a civil wedding abroad and then register their marriage with the Interior Ministry. A Cohen Gadol (the High Priest) has the additional restriction of not being permitted to marry a widow.
However, in this case, the applicant provided proof that his father was named Cohen only according to his grandmother’s surname, and not according to his father’s original surname. He was able to furnish his birth certificate in which another last name is recorded, and additional documents that verified this fact.
It also helped that no evidence had been offered to contradict these documents.
Since it was determined that the applicant was mistakenly considered a Cohen, and there is unequivocal evidence in the family records to support this assertion, the rabbinical judges decided to approve the request and declared that he was not a Cohen and permitted to marry a convert.